1890 Census Problem

Today’s story comes out of this curious set of records found in our German Family Tree.

Bischoff confirmations GFT
Bischoff confirmation records – GFT

These records indicate six Bischoff confirmations that occurred between 1888 and 1895 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.  Gerard Fiehler even pulled the original records out of our vault, and we found no parents associated with these confirmands.  If we only had some census records for 1890, we could probably easily discover the names of their parents.  It took a little more detective work on Ancestry.com to get the job done.  We find this family in the 1880 census records for Freeburg, Illinois.

Lydia Bischoff 1880 census Freeburg IL
1880 census – Freeburg, Illinois

There is also a 1-year old William listed on the next census page that I chose not to post here.  Starting with Lydia (at age 7) and going down the list, these names correspond with the GFT records shown above.  Two more Bischoffs were born after 1880.

The parents are shown here with the names of Joseph and Louisa Bischoff.  Joseph was a miller.  Now this story leads me back to a previous post with the title, Teacher Foelber.  In that post, we showed this marriage license.

Foelber Bischoff marriage license
Foelber/Bischoff marriage license

The Ida Bischoff on this license can also be found in the above 1880 census, which means Ida and the other Bischoffs are siblings.  On this form, it says that Ida was from Wittenberg.

Here is what I think happened.  Joseph and Louise moved their family to Perry County sometime in the mid-1880’s where Joseph was likely working in a flour mill.  The mill where he worked would have most likely been the mill in Wittenberg operated by Joseph Weinhold.  The Bischoff family left Perry County before the 1900 census, where we find them living in St. Louis.

Jacob Bischoff 1900 census St. Louis MO
1900 census – St. Louis, MO

It was Lydia Bischoff that made me look at these records today because she was born on April 2, 1873.  Her story follows an incredibly similar path to the story of her sister (Ida Bischoff).  Ida married a teacher from Snyder, Nebraska in 1891.  Lydia married Rev. Carl Rodenbeck, who hailed from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, but in the early 1900’s was a Lutheran pastor in Dodge, Nebraska.  In this map, you can see how close these two locations are.

Dodge and Snyder Nebraska map

The 1910 census shows both Ida and Lydia living with their families in these two nearby locations in Nebraska.  Here is the census for Carl and Lydia Rodenbeck in Dodge.

Carl Rodenbeck 1910 census Dodge NE
1910 census – Dodge, NE

I included another family underneath the Rodenbeck family.  It was for Herman Grosse, who was a Lutheran teacher there, and he, too, has Perry County and St. Louis roots.

In 1913, Teacher Foelber and his wife, Ida, moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana where he was a teacher for the rest of his career.  The Rodenbecks also moved to Ft. Wayne at about the same time (remember that Carl was a Ft. Wayne native).  Carl’s World War I draft registration puts him in a rural area near Ft. Wayne.


He is a Lutheran minister, but I was a little puzzled by his reference to being the pastor at Soest Church.  It did not take me long to find information on that church.  It is actually quite a large church in the Ft. Wayne area.  Here is a photo of their church in 1909 when it was relatively new.  Even to this day it is in a fairly rural area.

Soest Lutheran Church Ft. Wayne IN
Soest (Emmanuel) Lutheran Church – Ft. Wayne, IN

This is what this church looks like today.

Soest Emmanuel Lutheran Church Ft. Wayne IN

Rev. Rodenbeck served this church for 34 years.

Lydia died in 1948.  I found this obituary for her.

Lydia Bischoff Rodenbeck obituary

Rev. Carl died in 1959.  The two are buried together in the Concordia Lutheran Cemetery in Ft. Wayne.  Here is their gravestone.

Carl and Lydia Rodenbeck gravestone Concordia Ft. Wayne
Rev. Carl and Lydia Rodenbeck gravestone – Concordia, Ft. Wayne

The story about how most of the records from the 1890 census were destroyed is a fascinating one.  It was not just because the records were burned in a fire in 1921.  There is more to that story.  You can read about it by clicking on this link.


Today, I was once again amazed how a fairly simple looking record in our German Family Tree led to a rather fascinating tale.  It also gave me the opportunity to illustrate the difficulties that arise because the 1890 census is missing.  Without it, our research becomes more difficult, but sometimes other records can help us fill in the blanks.


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